Nutrition

Meal Frequency | Are You Eating Enough?

Written by Tom Macmillan, Natural World Champion Bodybuilder & Online Coach

Meal Frequency

Despite what you might have heard, meal frequency alone is irrelevant when it comes to improving body composition. You can eat six meals, three meals or ten meals, however, assuming you’re in a calorie deficit, then fat loss will occur.

However, finding the optimal frequency for you so that you can stick to your diet plan can make all the difference when it comes to losing body fat.

To find your optimal meal frequency, you should consider these three things:

1) Satiety

2) Your schedule

3) Appetite

 

Let’s break it down…

1. Satiety

This refers to how full you feel after meals. For some, if they eat too frequently and therefore reduce each meal’s portion size, they may find those smaller meals less satiating. For example, if you eat 2000 calories a day and have six meals, that’s approximately 333 calories per meal when split evenly. However, if you were to eat three meals at approximately 666 calories each, you may find that you’re more satisfied after your meals.

On the other hand, some people find that they get too hungry in between meals when they’re only eating three meals per day, so may wish to split them into six smaller meals. Try both ways and see what’s best for you.

2. Your Schedule

If you work long hours, then six meals are probably unsustainable, unless you’ve got someone else prepping your meals for you. Your diet should fit around your daily schedule.

3. Appetite

Is it low? Then you possibly require more meals split over the course of the day to ensure you can eat all of your calories. If it’s high, then you should probably save a bulk of your calories for later in the day, meaning less frequent meals.

chicken meal prep

 

Here’s my recommendation:


From personal experience, as well as working with clients, four meals per day seems to be the favourite when it comes to satiety, schedule and ensuring all calories are consumed. If you’re an early riser or your appetite is low, five meals may be preferable.

Protein within every six hours has been shown to maximise muscle-protein synthesis, therefore it would seem reasonable for meals to occur within that time if preserving muscle is a priority for you.

Example Template for 4 Meals Per Day

9 am: Breakfast

1 pm:  Lunch

5 pm: Dinner

9 pm:  Before bed

Example Template for Five Meals Per Day

8 am: Breakfast

12 pm: Lunch

3 pm: Snack

7 pm: Dinner

10-11pm: Before bed

 

meal frequency

Take Home Message

Make your diet work for you, as there’s no one size fits all. Experiment, evaluate, adjust. For fat loss, the priority should and will always be ensuring you’re within a calorie deficit and you’re consuming enough protein to preserve muscle mass.

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Jenny Watt

Jenny Watt

Writer and expert

Qualified Nutritionist and Personal trainer.


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